One of the most commonly asked questions from those wanting to cover Nubra Valley and Pangong Lake is about the direct route that goes via the Agham village and travels next to the Shyok river. This route has been very notorious at one point of time and hence the curiosity.
First, let us clarify the routes available for these two destinations. First and the longest is to back to Leh and then head to Pangong. This involves driving through two mountain passes of Khardung la and Chang la and the total distance is 275km. Note, we are considering your start poin at Hunder in Nubra and end point as Lukung, the place where the lake starts. Covering 275km on such terrain will take a minimum of about 8 hours plus breaks.
The second route from Nubra valley to Pangong lake is via the Wari la pass. This is the least used route and remains very isolated. This is taken when the Shyok river starts overflowing and the road gets submerged. This happens for a few days each year. The distance for this route is 228 km.
The third and the most used route is the direct one that connects Nubra Valley to Pangong Lake via Agham Shyok. This route is only 167km long (Hunder to Lukung) and takes about 4-5 hours plus breaks. There are no mountain passes and over 85% of the route is well laid our tarmac which means average speeds remain high. Although at places, the route is very isolated, but as all cabs use this, you always have help at hand. That said, we do understand about 3-4 patches are very rough but these can be negotiated easily. Incase of heavy rains, when the river swallows the road, you can always take the Wari La route. However, do note take it if you start witnessing snowfall enroute.
Also, the only working network on the route, BSNL still doesn’t cover the entire stretch. You will have JIO in Nubra but that will fade off once you turn left at Khalsar towards Agham-Shyok.